By on September 10, 2021

With the Biden administration having announced that it would start requiring companies to vaccinate employees, automakers and UAW are finding themselves in a sticky situation. Unions had previously said they wanted to hold off on endorsing or opposing mandatory vaccinations until after they discussed things with the industry and their own members. Considering Joe Biden said he wouldn’t make vaccines mandatory less than 10 months ago, employers are getting caught with their pants around the proverbial ankles.

Automakers had previously been surveying white-collar workers to see what they wanted to do while upping on-site COVID restrictions, but operating under the impression that any hard decisions were likely a long way off and left entirely to their discretion. Now the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is planning a new standard that requires all employers with 100 (or more) employees to guarantee their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on a minimum weekly basis.  (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2021

Detroit automakers and the UAW have elected to reinstitute national masking mandates for all of their facilities, starting Wednesday. General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis have issued a joint announcement clarifying that the rules are in accordance with the updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending masks be worn by all persons regardless of their vaccination status.

Based upon the text included in the release, the industry seems aware that the decision will be unpopular and is doing its utmost to transition responsibility without absolving itself entirely.  (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2021

General Motors will resume full-size pickup assembly next week, leaving its crossovers will have to continue enduring production hang-ups related to the semiconductor shortage. American manufacturers have been absolutely creamed by supply shortages this year and a lack of chips really hurt pickup volumes. We’ve seen a lot of creative solutions, including automakers putting unfinished vehicles on the lot in hopes that they can install the missing hardware later.

But GM’s latest solution involves prioritizing Michigan’s Flint Assembly, Indiana’s Fort Wayne Assembly, Silao Assembly in Mexico — all of which were previously idled or operating on reduced schedules. Unfortunately, that means giving other North American facilities more downtime and, sadly, plenty of it.  (Read More…)

By on July 26, 2021

Audi is discontinuing the A1, citing Europe’s regulatory landscape as the main cause. Eager to limit the amount of CO2 coming out of tailpipes, the European Union has placed strict limits on petroleum-powered passenger vehicles. For Audi, the price of manufacturing a subcompact automobile-dependent upon internal combustion is getting too high. Installing a smaller motor would negatively impact drivability while slotting in a hybrid powertrain means more R&D costs and jacking up the MSRP to a point where consumers might lose interest.

There’s just not much incentive to build small, efficient vehicles when the profit margins have been made razor thin and people aren’t buying them in great numbers. And this is a lesson that’s being learned by all automakers, not just those associated to Volkswagen Group.  (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2021

Despite American carmakers and the United Auto Workers abandoning mask mandates at the end of June, there’s been an about-face in Wentzville, Missouri. The state witnessed an uptick of cases, encouraging both the UAW and General Motors to reintroduce masks and social distancing protocols.

The facility is responsible for the GMC Canyon and Colorado, as well as Chevrolet’s Savana and Express. It’s also likely to be the first facility of many we’re assuming will be told it’s time to go back to the old masking rules. But why is this happening so soon after everyone was given the green light to return to normal operations?  (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2021

As you’re undoubtedly aware, now isn’t the best time to purchase a new vehicle. While you can currently sell your ride for more than it’s realistically worth, the economy is anything but stable as inflation and supply shortages gum up the works. A lack of semiconductor chips has caused the automotive industry to stutter endlessly throughout 2021, with the issue getting so bad that some manufacturers have been building unfinished vehicles just to give their employees something to do. Ford is even mulling over a strategy to ship those units directly to dealerships so they’ll have something on the lot — effectively making its retail network responsible for final assembly.

But the logistics nightmare is only part of the story. Automotive loans are also becoming untenable as terms stretch out endlessly. Cars continue getting more expensive and the average consumer is losing their buying power. The preferred solution is for financiers to extend agreements so customers can continue making the same monthly payments while accruing more on interest over the duration. While effective in the short term, and bound to make banks money as we’re all driven deeper into debt, one wonders how this plays out on a grander scale.  (Read More…)

By on June 30, 2021

The COVID-19 Joint Task Force comprised of Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers (UAW) has announced that it will be removing mask mandates for vaccinated employees. After meeting on Monday to discuss changes within state and federal health policies, the group decided masks should be made voluntary items for staffers. They could not get the rule change to coincide with the date the decision was made, however.

Lineworkers will instead be waiting until July 12th to pitch their masks in the trash bin so they can be deposited upon beaches and sea beds around the world. Of course, if a government agency (city, state, or county) wants to uphold old mandates or introduce new ones, the COVID-19 Joint Task Force said it would automatically comply. But that might not matter if employees have already decided to stop observing pandemic protocols.  (Read More…)

By on June 24, 2021

Stellantis plans to extend the typical summer downtime at a couple assembly plants while relaunching production at Windsor Assembly next month. The Canadian van factory will be see two shifts returning on July 5th, while its Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico will be idled due to the ongoing semiconductor shortage. This has become a common tactic within the automotive industry, with our doubting it’ll be the last occasion we’ll be reporting on extended summer vacations.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. appears to have lost its technology chief to Amazon. Ken Washington was hired into Blue Oval after a stint with Lockeed Martin in 2014 and will be leaving the automaker next month to become vice president of software engineering for the tech giant.  (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2021

Volkswagen Group has been prattling on about electrification for years and ultimately decided that Audi would be the tip of its progressive spear. The brand has cachet as both a luxury and performance division, while simultaneously possessing VW’s magical ability to produce vehicles that don’t become an eyesore after you’ve had them in the garage for a decade.

While transitioning toward EVs runs the risk of spoiling that, Audi is clearly the VW property best positioned to come after would-be Tesla customers and is not hesitant to issue reminders that it’s serious about being a global leader when it comes to battery-driven vehicles. On Tuesday, the Ingolstadt-based company announced plans to exclusively launch electrically driven automobiles from 2026 onward — adding that it doesn’t even plan on selling internal-combustion vehicles by 2033.

But these rules won’t apply to the Chinese market, which will be flush with internal-combustion vehicles produced within its borders years after the rest of the world has apparently lost the option to purchase them.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2021

As the resident sourpuss, I make it my business to complain about every industrial hypocrisy that crosses my path and the automotive sector has kept me so busy that there’s hardly any time left to address my own failings. Though I do have to confess that I sometimes feel guilty about how frequently I’m compelled to gripe about electric vehicles. Provided that you’re willing to work with their charging limitations and less-than-impressive ranges, EVs have a lot to offer even in their current state. But the way they’ve been marketed has been so consistently disingenuous that I often end my days on the cusp of a frustration-induced aneurysm.

The winds appear to be changing, however.

After years of watching the industry bang its head against the wall, the media seems prepared to shift its position. Accelerated adoption of pure electrics doesn’t seem to be happening and too many EV startups have ended up being little more than an opportunity for investors to throw away money. Increasingly fewer people ask me about battery-powered cars in a way that suggests true enthusiasm. Excitement has given way to dubiousness as more people have begun to ponder if electrics are really all they’re cracked up to be.  (Read More…)

By on June 18, 2021

We’ve got more bad news about Lordstown Motors. Following several volleys of bad mojo ending with the departure of its upper management, the EV startup has informed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday that it doesn’t have any binding purchase orders or commitments.

That’s not what the company was saying several months ago. Hell, that wasn’t even what it said earlier this week when President Rich Schmidt told the Automotive Press Association the company had enough orders to support two years of production. Since the ability to sell automobiles is a somewhat relevant factor in an automaker’s long-term success, we’re getting concerned that Lordstown isn’t long for this world.  (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2021

There is plenty of electrification news this week, despite the brunt of consumers remaining seemingly disinterested in the automotive segment that’s entirely dependent upon batteries. General Motors recently announced that it would be increasing its EV investments through 2025 to $35 billion, noting that some amount of the funding will also be going toward autonomous vehicle development.

Meanwhile, Stellantis confirmed that it’s planning a quartet of battery-driven automobiles offering more utility than the pint-sized Fiat 500e. Those vehicles aren’t supposed to see assembly until 2024 and there are lingering questions about where the firm plans on building battery plants. But the UILM union has confirmed that the upcoming models are likely to be midsized and built at the company’s Melfi plant in Italy. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2021

Starting a car brand has to be among the more foolhardy endeavors one can embark upon. The industry is saturated with giant, multinational companies that don’t want competition and a regulatory environment that requires a ludicrous amount of wealth and plenty of time to overcome. Despite this, we’ve seen countless electric vehicle startups attempting to accrete into something profitable over the last few years. But even the winners have found themselves wholly dependent upon government-backed. carbon-credit schemes or blank-check firms designed to guarantee their IPOs are astronomically high — often before they’ve shown a functional prototype.

This makes distinguishing a company with potential from those that are dead on arrival incredibly difficult. Though it’s getting easier to see which side of the fence Lordstown Motors will be occupying after a particularly grim string of months. One of its prototypes spontaneously combusted during testing last March, at roughly the same time Hindenburg Research was accusing it of fraud. More recently, the business lost CEO Steve Burns and confessed that it was in desperate need of money to start production.  (Read More…)

By on June 11, 2021

Volkswagen recently announced that it plans on making massive amounts of money by introducing more vehicles with over-the-air updates (OTAs), many of which will be able to store and transfer personal profiles so that users can effectively just rent their vehicles for eternity. Additionally, VW has suggested future models will have ability to lock features (that have already been physically installed) behind a paywall that users can unlock via subscription services — things like heated seats, satellite navigation, or even the vehicles top speed.

“In the future, our customers will buy, lease, share or rent cars just for a weekend, and we can use software to provide them with whatever they need over the air,” VW brand’s sales chief Klaus Zellmer said during an online presentation held on Tuesday. “The ID family has been designed for further development, with OTA updates to improve the software’s performance and tailor it to our customers’ needs.” (Read More…)

By on June 9, 2021

us-capitol, public domain

Apologies for all the semiconductor news. But it’s the topic of the day, with the United States Senate recently approving $52 billion in emergency spending to help bolster domestic chip production and another $190 billion for R&D programs.

Passing the vote (68-32) under the premise that boosting localized chip production would help prevent domestic automakers from having to cut corners, the Senate is also suggesting the funding could give the U.S. a competitive advantage against China. The Communist Party of China (CCP) has opposed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (formerly the Endless Frontier Act), with statements released from the National People’s Congress (NPC) demanding the legislation be halted immediately.  (Read More…)

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